Kitty Warren has worked hard to provide a good life for her daughter. But when Vivie finds out the truth about her mother's profession, sparks fly. The Antaeus Company, L.A.'s multiple award-winning classical theater company, presents Mrs. Warren's Profession, the superbly intelligent-and still shocking- powerhouse of a play by George Bernard Shaw
that was banned for eight years on the English stage. Robin Larsen directs the double-cast production now through April 21, 2013. BroadwayWorld has a first look at both casts onstage below!
Freshly graduated from Cambridge after a lifetime of boarding schools, Vivie finally gets to know her mother over the course of a weekend-only to discover a shocking secret about just how Mrs. Warren financed her education.
Shaw's ultimate test of a mother-daughter relationship deftly depicts the universal conflict between the generations. At the same time, the play is a scathing critique of the restrictions placed upon women in Victorian society-one that continues to be fresh and relevant in today's world. Always a champion of social reform, Shaw said he wrote the play "to draw attention to the truth that prostitution is caused, not by female depravity and male licentiousness, but simply by underpaying, undervaluing and overworking women so shamefully that the poorest of them are forced to resort to prostitution to keep body and soul together." Modern parallels abound regarding both opportunities for women and society's hypocrisy about money and respectability.
Scenic design for Mrs. Warren's Profession is by François-Pierre Couture; lighting design is by Jeremy Pivnick; costume design is by A. Jeffrey Schoenberg; sound design is by John Zalewski; dramaturg is Christopher Breyer; and the production stage manager is Deirdre Murphy.
Unique among 99-seat theater companies in L.A., Antaeus is known for "partner casting." In all Antaeus productions, two equally talented actors collaborate on every role, working together throughout the rehearsal process and enriching the creative experience.
Born in Dublin to a lower middle-class Protestant family, George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) was a passionate advocate for several political causes, including socialism, gender equality, animal rights, alphabet reform and state funding for the arts. He co-founded and became a prominent member of the Fabian Society, a political organization dedicated to transforming Britain into a socialist state. He began his literary career as a novelist, but his frequent criticism of English theater propelled him to write his own plays. His earliest works, now referred to as the "Plays: Pleasant and Unpleasant", fiercely attacked social hypocrisy. Among these were Widower's House¸ Arms and the Man and Mrs. Warren's Profession. His work was generally refused production in London, only occasionally presented by experimental theater companies or abroad, until 1904 when Harley Granville Barker took over the Court Theatre and began producing Shaw's work under Shaw's direction. His commercial success was also bolstered by his marriage to heiress Charlotte Payne-Townsend, and this financial independence allowed him to continue to write, lecture, travel and remain active in local government. Shaw authored more than 60 plays, including Saint Joan, Major Barbara, Androcles and the Lion, The Doctor's Dilemma, Heartbreak House, Candida and Pygmalion. He was the recipient of a Nobel Prize for Literature and an Academy Award for Best Screenplay (for the 1938 film adaptation of Pygmalion).
When Mrs. Warren's Profession was written in 1893, it was immediately banned from public production by Britain's Lord Chamberlain because of its subject matter. When it premiered on the American stage in 1905, the play was literally halted in mid-performance by the New York Police Department, which cited the entire company for disorderly conduct. The first public presentation in London took place in 1925, by which time mores had begun to catch up with thematic content.
Antaeus is a cooperative theater ensemble founded to empower the actor and to bring classical theater to Los Angeles. The company exists to create a family of artists and audiences and is dedicated to exploring stories with enduring themes. Taking their company name from the Titan who gained strength by touching the Earth, Antaeus members-many of whom are familiar to film and television audiences-regain their creative strength by returning to the wellspring of their craft: live theater. Members of the company span a wide range of age, ethnicity and experience; they have performed on Broadway, at major regional theaters across the country, in film, television and on local stages, and are the recipients of numerous accolades including Tony, Los Angeles and New York Drama Critics Circle, Ovation, LA Weekly, and Back Stage Garland nominations and awards. Audiences, who never see an understudy due Antaeus's trademark "partner casting," frequently return to see the same play in the hands of an equally excellent but very different set of actors.
Performances of Mrs. Warren's Profession take place through April 21 on Thursdays and Fridays @ 8 pm; Saturdays @ 2 pm and 8 pm (no matinee performance on Saturday, March 16); and Sundays @ 2 pm. Tickets to the Opening Night performances on March 14 and 15 are $34, after which all tickets are $30 on Thursdays and Fridays and $34 on Saturdays and Sundays; previews are $15. The Antaeus Company is located at 5112 Lankershim Blvd in North Hollywood, Calif. Parking is available for $7 in the lot at 5125 Lankershim Blvd. (west side of the street), just south of Magnolia. The theater is air-conditioned and wheelchair accessible. For reservations and information, call 818-506-1983 or go to www.antaeus.org.
Photo Credits: Karianne Flaathen (Cast 1) and Geoffrey Wade (Cast 2)
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